The elderly disabled woman only knew three words: yes, no, and soda. At least they were the only words that DuVal Malone had ever heard her speak during their 10 years of acquaintance.
Then one day Malone took her dog Jack to visit.
She broke out in a big smile, and said, ‘oh – what a beautiful doggy, oh what a beautiful doggy,’” Malone says. “I didn’t know she could speak to that extent. He was a delight to her at the end of her life.”
Jack, a 6-year-old Parson Russell Terrier, is a frequent visitor to Pine Castle, a facility for adults with disabilities in Jacksonville. Malone, director of community relations, brings him on Fridays, which executive director Jon May established as official “Dog Days” four years ago.
Malone walks Jack around the campus to visit some of the 14 different work sites, where 270 people come every day for vocational and life skills training or paid employment. For those who are elderly or have more severe levels of disability, the day and residential facility also provides full time care.
Additional campus resources include a computer lab and classroom where Florida State College at Jacksonville instructors teach “Learning for Living” academic classes and offer one on one instruction. Malone took Jack to those areas one recent day, to the delight of a group of fans waiting for him.
“He’s a nice boy dog,” Mandy Nantz said, as she reached down to pet Jack after he came in the door. “He likes me – he kissed me on the nose.”
“I like his smile,” Deborah Lane said.
“He’s kind and sweet,” said Gail Bates. “Do you like Jack?” Bates asked Freddie Williams, who doesn’t speak much.
“Yes,” Freddy said with a grin.
Pine Castle, which sits on 13 acres off Spring Park Road, was established by 33 area families as a private school for children with disabilities in 1952. After it was nationally mandated that public schools serve such children in the 1960s, Pine Castle shifted its services to adults 18 years and older. Many come right after high school and stay into retirement.
Jack has been visiting since Dog Days were created, and “everyone here knows him,” says Malone. A small black and white dog about the size of an average Jack Russell Terrier, she says, “He’s very attentive, and he seems to have an innate sense of how to interact with different individuals. When he first came here, he was afraid of wheelchairs and walkers. He’d cower next to me. Now nothing fazes him.”
Richard Brown calls Jack’s visits “dog therapy.”
“I love dog therapy,” Brown said. “Jack is great for me.”
“I’ve got four dogs at my house,” said Lissette Pelegrin. “And I love Jack too.”